Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Videodrome

By Scott Phillips

JANUARY 19, 1999: 

Rabid Dogs (1974/1997)

This movie by famed Italian director Mario Bava (Danger: Diabolik, Black Sunday) languished unfinished for years before his death, although the film was nearly complete. Apparently, one of the financiers had died during the post-production phase, leaving the film tied up in legal red tape. Now, however, the film has been finished using Bava's notes as a guide, and the result shows once again what a masterful filmmaker Bava really was. The film opens as a group of desperate and sweaty thieves pull off a violent robbery. Their getaway driver is shot in the head, and the three surviving hoods (Doc, Blade and Thirty-Two) take off on foot, kidnapping a woman and eventually hijacking a car driven by an anxious man with a sick child in the backseat. The man begs the thieves to let him take the kid to the hospital, but they'll hear none of it, instead ordering him to drive them out of town and away from the cops. Avoiding the highways (and police roadblocks), they stick to less-traveled backroads, where they stumble into various tense situations. Doc, the level-headed member of the gang, tries to keep the more volatile Blade and Thirty-Two in line; but as the day grows hotter and the drive drags on, the thugs become more and more uncontrollable. Rabid Dogs is one of the best damn movies I've seen in a long time, and I don't wanna give away a second of it--suffice to say that as things wheel toward the terrific surprise ending, the bad guys begin fighting amongst themselves as well as with their hostages, and Bava manages to imbue the ensuing brutality with a strange sort of tenderness. Aside from its entertainment value, this flick should be required viewing for anyone who wants to make movies--it's practically a textbook for getting the most out of a minimal budget (the biggest part of the movie takes place inside the car) without sacrificing character or drama. And for Pete's sake, if that weren't enough, Thirty-Two is played by George Eastman--the love-crazed "Big Ape" from After the Fall of New York! Now here's the catch: Rabid Dogs is currently available only on DVD. So run out and buy that DVD player--but for the love of God, don't buy a DIVX machine! (Lucertola Media)

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

What better way to sequelize the lackluster Amityville Horror than to turn a bunch of Italians loose on it, led by director Damiano Damiani? Actually a "prequel," A II opens with that creepy house staring down at the Montelli family as they move into the joint. Mean ol' bastard Burt Young plays the dad this time around, and we quickly learn that he's every bit as abusive as we'd want him to be (all the better to inspire violent tendencies in his teenage boy, Sonny). Mom cranks up the kitchen faucet, recoiling in horror as blood spews forth. Teeny-bopper daughter Diane Franklin wears a skintight shirt and jeans while ballet-dancing around the attic, pausing only to rub against her brother. More creepiness rears its slimy head down in the basement, but our lovable new tenants are undaunted. That night, ghostly paintbrushes draw spooky pigs on the wall in the kids' room, and Burt unleashes some discipline on the brats via a smartly-wielded leather belt. Sonny interrupts by shoving a shotgun into Burt's face, and we sense there may be some father/son issues here. After the Devil speaks to Sonny on his Walkman, the lad starts freaking out big-time, and his head swells up like a balloon. Later, he puts the make on his sister, convincing her to shuck her nightie and strike a saucy pose before he returns a stolen pair of her panties and jams his tongue down her throat. When the local priest comes to bless the house, Sonny is discourteous and plays a bloody practical joke on the Man of God. During his birthday party, Sonny starts mutating, and you know mass murder will soon follow. As the bodies are being dragged out, the priest realizes that it may be time for an exorcism and pays a visit to Sonny in the slam. The monsterrific hijinks come fast and furious as good and evil face off in a slime-slathered battle royale, and nobody does it better than the Italians. Kicks the original's ass and definitely delivers the groceries. (Goodtimes)

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